5 Amazing Ways a Brand Documentary Will Help Your Business

Brand documentary interview
A brand documentary is a conversation.

What Is a Brand Documentary?

A brand documentary is a very short (usually under 5 minutes) film made primarily from unscripted interview footage. A brand documentary may also be called a “branded documentary” or “mini documentary”. It will typically feature the president, CEO founder, or owner. Some brand documentaries also include other staff members or clients.

In addition to interview footage, brand documentaries often feature “b-roll”, which refers to any footage that isn’t people talking. This can be interesting footage of the organization’s facilities, operations, equipment, or even the interviewees engaged in other activities.

I’m a strong believer and dedicated practitioner of the brand documentary format. I’m grateful that I have so many opportunities to help CEOs and founders leverage their best differentiator: their own passion and personality. It’s often a great pleasure to awaken these leaders to aspects of their own greatness they may not have known about.

If you’re pondering creating a brand documentary for your own organization, consider these advantages:

“The fact is, we cannot love a logo, a jingle, or a piece of branded content. But we can love a person. That’s a clue to regaining our brand standing in a world of loyalty lost.”

-Mark W. Schaefer | Marketing Rebellion


1. It will establish trust.

Brand trust happens when the person behind the brand shows vulnerability. It works because people subconsciously assume that if you’re willing to reveal potentially embarrassing information, you would have no reason to deceive them.

Showing vulnerability means being the face of your business, flaws and all. The only way to show true vulnerability in marketing is to forget the talking points and have real conversations.

Your brand documentary will be based on unscripted conversations, so the things you say will sound, and actually be, genuine. People can tell the difference. When they sense your sincerity, their trust in your brand will increase.

Moreover, if you include unscripted client testimonials in your brand documentary, your audience will sense their sincerity too. Professional actors aside, it’s impossible to fake a testimonial on video without triggering the audience’s fake alarm.

2. It will “automate the handshake”.

If your business depends on person-to-person sales, how much time do you spend establishing trust and rapport? Would you rather spend 30 minutes speaking with someone who doesn’t know anything about you other than what you sell, or someone who’s already seen into your heart and knows what you’re all about?

A well-made brand documentary will help your prospects feel like they already know you before the first call. This will result in a warmer and more receptive lead from the beginning of the call.

3. It will give your brand authenticity.

People can sense fake. Consumers are weary of traditional advertising, and they’re increasingly unlikely to believe marketing claims. Therefore, it’s become more important than ever for brands to be authentic.

Being authentic means being emotionally transparent and crystal clear about your Why. This is bad news for opportunistic companies without core values, or companies that constantly compromise their values for short-term gain. Authentic brands, by contrast, have a rock-solid, deep-seated Why that their leaders can speak about on the spot, with burning passion.

A great brand documentary will broadcast your authenticity from the mountaintops by digging deep for your Why and communicating it through undeniably genuine moments. It will show in your eyes, and your audience will understand it.

4. It’s evergreen marketing collateral.

Videos that simply advertise products or services become irrelevant as soon as you change a feature, an offer, a guarantee, or pretty much anything else. On the other hand, your brand documentary is about the things that (hopefully) don’t change – your values, your passion, your mission, your Why.

As long as you keep your eye on the reason you started your company in the first place, your brand documentary will continue to serve you.

5. It will help you define your business story.

It’s quite possible that the most compelling thing about your personality or business story is something you don’t know about yet. It can be invaluable to learn what others see in you.

When you create a brand documentary, your interviewer will have a long conversation with you and try to learn as much as she can about what makes you tick. Later, your editor will scour the footage for the most compelling moments. The moments that stand out to someone else may surprise you, and you may realize that they should be implemented into your brand story.

Brand documentaries vs. conventional marketing videos

Unlike conventional marketing videos, which advertise products and services, brand documentaries give viewers a glimpse of the real humanity behind the brand. We love making this type of video because it gives us the opportunity to get to know entrepreneurs and business leaders on a deeper level.

freelancer vs video agency
Brand documentaries feature visceral, authentic moments.

Conventional marketing videos use a script, with the exact wording planned ahead of time. This can often lead to a result that feels stiff, salesy, or inauthentic. By contrast, well-made brand documentaries feel genuine and trustworthy because they offer the audience visceral moments from the real people behind the business.

Since the story is developed after the filming instead of before, the editor can build the narrative around the most touching moments. As an editor, I personally love this aspect. I almost always discover a hidden passion that the business leader hadn’t previously considered a marketing asset. Because of these discoveries, the process of making a brand documentary can add a lot of value beyond the video itself.

Here’s an example:

Can a roofing company video have some touching moments? Yes! Check out this brand documentary we created for Midwest Roofing.

Notice how everything Darren and his employees say seems to come from the heart. That’s because it does. Like most people, these guys aren’t actors. If we had tried to get them to recite lines from a script, the result would have been… awkward. Instead, we just captured them talking about the things that matter to them. What we got was a group of guys breathing life into an industry most people never think about.

How to make a brand documentary

For best results, hire a video production company that specializes in this type of work. Here are two important factors to consider when selecting a production company:

  1. Does their interviewer have a keen sense of empathy and a genuine interest in getting to know business leaders?  Production companies tend to underestimate this responsibility and assign it to the director, or whoever happens to be on set. As a result, the conversation is surface-level and focuses only on the rote specifics of the business. The interviewee never gets warm enough to reveal genuine emotion. By contrast, a great interviewer takes plenty of time to ingratiate herself to the interviewee and has an enjoyable, reciprocal conversation.
  2. Does their editor know how to discern emotion from information?  Brand documentaries commonly suffer from the need to inform, which is a great goal for written media, like websites and brochures. However, the real strength of the brand documentary is its ability to inspire. A talented brand documentary editor knows how to build a story purely from emotional impact statements.

Need help?

I would love to meet you and help you conceptualize a brand documentary for your organization. Please reach out and say hi!